Newcastle disease virus (NDV) is a contagious agent of Newcastle disease in avian species and seriously affects the poultry industry. The cleavage site of the viral F protein (Fcs) is a key determinant of membrane fusion and viral virulence. In this study, we investigated the precise effect of variable amino acid sequences of the Fcs on fusogenic activity. Based on viral pathogenicity, the Fcs sequences of natural isolates (n = 1572) are classified into eight types of virulent Fcs (VFcs) with the motif "G/R/K-R-Q/R/K-R/K-R downward arrowF" and ten types of the avirulent Fcs (AFcs) with the motif "G/R/E-R/K/Q-Q-G/E-R downward arrowL". The VFcs is only found in the Class II cluster of viral classification and not in Class I. The AFcs exists in both Class I and II isolates. The VFc and AFc types present an evolutionary relationship with temporal distribution and host species. Using a fusion assay in vitro, VFcs-1 "RRQKR downward arrowF" and VFcs-2 "RRQRR downward arrowF" show the highest efficiency in triggering membrane fusion. The neutral residue Q at the P3 position of the VFcs plays an enhancing role compared to effect of the basic residues R and K. A single residue K at P3 or P5 is less efficient of the fusogenic activity in the VFcs with all basic residues. Moreover, the cleavage efficiencies of F0 proteins with different types of Fcs motifs do not appear to affect membrane fusion. Our findings offer insight into the effect of amino acid variation of the Fcs on the fusion triggered by NDV.
Wang, Y., Yu, W., Huo, N., Wang, W., Guo, Y., Wei, Q., … Xiao, S. (2017). Comprehensive analysis of amino acid sequence diversity at the F protein cleavage site of Newcastle disease virus in fusogenic activity. PLoS ONE, 12(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183923